Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, Archbishop of Kinshasa. CC BY-SA 4.0 - Photo: 2024

Congolese Bishops Decry ‘Trails of Murders’ in the City Of Goma

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK | 20 May 2024 (IDN) — A despairing picture of the Democratic Republic of Congo was recently captured by a group of local bishops who condemned how “the dignity of the Congolese people is being undermined.”

“The situation in and around (the capital city of) Goma is worsening day by day,” said Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, Archbishop of Kinshasa, to the Fides news service. According to the Cardinal, a rebel military group, the March 23 Movement, or M23, has taken up arms against North Kivu and has captured several towns.

“The M23 continues to conquer territories while the Congolese army is in complete chaos,” said the Cardinal. “What we fear most is the risk of general insecurity, especially in Goma and throughout the east of the country.”

An assessment by the bishops followed a week-long meeting in Butembo-Beni and appeared in Agenzia Fides, a news service which informs and promotes missionary activity.

The bishops urged leaders of the Congo to serve the people and stop running the country as if it were their private domain. The international community must “stop choking Africa” and understand that the Democratic Republic of Congo is not for sale and cannot be lawlessly exploited.

The bishops further denounced “the insecurity which has become endemic, with its trail of murders, massacres and kidnappings” as well as the “continued siege of the city of Goma by the M23, which is backed by Rwanda.”

The deadly situation has led to some parishes having to partially or totally close and young people abandoned. This has led to a “breach in trust between the civil population and the military, […] and the civil population and the state authorities,” the assessment read.

According to Human Rights Watch, there are more than 130 armed groups active in eastern Congo’s North and South Kivu provinces, attacking civilians. Many of their commanders have been implicated in war crimes, including ethnic massacres, rape, forced recruitment of children, and pillage.

Escalating violence

“What amazes people here is the guilty silence of the international community, which is more concerned about what is happening in… Ukraine and the Gaza Strip, as if the life of a Congolese does not count,” the bishops’ statement, sent to Fides, continues.

According to the Civil Society Coordination Office, the goal of M23 is “to suffocate the towns of Goma by cutting off all food supplies from South Kivu. For this reason, boats on Lake Kivu are also bombed.”

The Civil Society Coordination therefore calls on the UN Security Council to appoint the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to investigate crimes against the civilian population in the region and to impose an embargo on the sale of arms to Rwanda and Uganda, which are accused of supporting the M23.

Elsewhere on the continent, violence has been escalating in Sudan’s El Fasher in Darfur between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces, severely impacting civilians.

U.N. Human Rights chief Volker Turk expressed horror at the escalating violence.

Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN High Commission for Human Rights, told a news briefing in Geneva: “We warned both commanders that fighting in El Fasher, where more than 1.8 million residents and internally displaced people are currently encircled and at imminent risk of famine, would have a catastrophic impact on civilians and it would deepen intercommunal conflict with disastrous humanitarian consequences.” [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo: Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, Archbishop of Kinshasa. CC BY-SA 4.0


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